From chronic back pain to carpal tunnel syndrome, we've all seen how much damage bad ergonomics can do. Bad ergonomics, in short, are bad for business.
Ensuring that your manufacturing site is designed with worker comfort and safety in mind brings many benefits. Ergonomic manufacturing workstations increase productivity, cut the risk of pain and injury and lead to higher quality work.
There are many opportunities in the manufacturing process to implement ergonomic workspaces, so it's no surprise the task may seem daunting. That's why we've compiled an ergonomic manufacturing assessment checklist below that will cover basic ergonomic solutions for manufacturing and factory workers.
Ergonomic Assessment Checklist for Manufacturing Safety
Even work environments that historically have been considered low-risk for injuries now regularly conduct ergonomic safety assessments. This is because, while serious injuries in the workplace have declined, we've seen an increase in musculoskeletal disorders related to repetitive stress.
These injuries don’t just make life harder for workers; they also have a big impact on productivity. Around 364 million workdays are lost every year due to strains, back pain, and other musculoskeletal conditions.
Part 1: Ergonomic Manufacturing Equipment
Many manufacturing facilities use ergonomically designed products to accommodate people of different body shapes and sizes. Particularly of interest are:
- Monitor arms: These are used on printing equipment, CNC machines, packaging stations, and a wealth of other equipment. Users can adjust the height and angle so they aren’t twisting their bodies or straining their eyes looking up or down.
- Keyboard and mouse trays: Similar to adjustable monitor arms, keyboard and mouse trays are used throughout the manufacturing industry. Adjustable trays allow people of all shapes and sizes to use the same equipment comfortably.
- Computers on wheels (COWs): While most common in the medical industry, COWs can also be used by shop supervisors or plant managers to transport their machines from one area to another. They are also great behind the scenes in prototyping and engineering, quality-assurance inspections, and easy access to electronic work instructions at manufacturing stations.
Equipment like the examples above must be adjustable so that no one has to strain to use them. For instance, CNC-like machinery where workers are programming output often have their own built-in screens, keyboards, and computer trays. By choosing models with adjustable accessories, your workforce is protected.
While ergonomic manufacturing workstations may differ from job site to job site, ensure that your equipment is adjustable, easy to use, and comfortable for your workers.
Part 2: Ergonomic Standards in the Workplace
Ergonomics best practices reduce the risk of strains and repetitive-stress injuries because they allow for people to work in natural and comfortable positions. A number of standards for industrial safety and ergonomics apply to the equipment you purchase for your facility.
When performing your ergonomic assessment, ensure that your equipment and tools are compliant with the standards that apply to your industry and facility. This is especially important when manufacturing equipment for the federal government or for defense/aerospace contractors.
Which standards apply will depend on your industry. For instance, SCS indoor air quality standards verify that workers aren’t breathing in toxic fumes. Other standards that may apply to your work include:
- Environmental Protection Agency Indoor Air Quality
- Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer's Association (BIFMA)
- American National Standards Institute (ANSI). BIFMA operates under the auspices of ANSI, so you will often see their acronyms mentioned together.
- Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (ROHS)
Part 3: Ergonomic Manufacturing Hazards and How to Avoid Them
Ergonomic safety tips and training for workers can significantly cut the risk of injury in manufacturing. Brush up on proper form and posture regularly to keep people aware of best practices.
- Always lift with your legs, not your back.
- Adjust keyboards, mouse holders, and screens to a comfortable height. Bending or stretching to use computers can lead to repetitive stress injuries.
- Use lifting aids when lifting, turning, and placing heavy materials.
- Use transportation devices like carts, forklifts, and conveyors when possible to reduce the need to manually move materials.
Add This Guide to Your Manufacturing Ergonomics Assessment Checklist
Assessing your facility's ergonomics repays many times over. With better-designed facilities and practices, you’ll employ a happier, more comfortable workforce that is more productive and less likely to get injured on the job.
High-quality ergonomic products exist for every industry, but not all of them make sense for your factory. For more advice for allocating your ergonomics budget, download this free e-guide: